A quintessential part of the private school experience is following a different class schedule than you would if you went to a public school. This is certainly the case at Kingswood Oxford, where currently, students follow a 10-day rotating block schedule, with eight total class slots and four to five periods per day. However, next year the existing schedule will be replaced with a new schedule that is meant to be more predictable and consistent.
In recent years, there have been numerous student and faculty complaints that the current schedule does not meet the needs of the students. Further, since KO consists of both a Middle and Upper School, the faculty hoped that there could be changes implemented that would make their vastly different schedules more aligned.
In order to go about the process of creating a new schedule, the school gathered faculty members to form a committee to spearhead this operation. The committee was headed by Upper School science teacher Alex Kraus along with Middle School math teacher Stacey Tomkiel. Other members of the committee included visual arts Department Chair Katie Burnett, Upper School history Department Chair David Baker, Director of Student Wellness and Learning Jackie Rubin, Upper School math teacher Nicole Baratz, Director of College Counseling Jami Silver, Upper School math teacher Sandi Goss, Middle School history teacher Kelly Anstead, and Middle School Spanish teacher Tricia Crowley. A handful of students were also invited to participate in some of the committee’s meetings in order to provide a student perspective on the matter.
The committee considered a variety of challenges with the preexisting schedule. For instance, one of the largest complaints from students was that there is limited time throughout the day for student-run clubs to meet. This is especially problematic in a school where extracurricular activities and leadership are encouraged. Furthermore, the existing schedule’s structure has no pattern, meaning each of the ten days in the schedule is unique. This makes it challenging for students to remember their day-to-day classes.
One student, in particular, has been vocal about the shortcomings of the current schedule. Last year, sophomore Sasha Dausey wrote an opinion piece for the KO News analyzing the benefits and flaws in the existing schedule. She was later invited to be a part of the scheduling committee to represent the student perspective. She had one main complaint. “It’s kind of confusing with all the days,” Sasha said. “If I were to change one thing in the schedule, it would be that.”
The KO administration decided it was time for a change. They also noted that it was the perfect time to change the Upper School schedule to align more with the Middle School since Middle School English teacher Anastasia Sullo will be teaching the Senior Symposium class in 2023-2024.
Head of the Upper School Daniel Gleason noted that the connections with the Middle School had a large influence on the creation of the schedule. “We have two divisions on campus here,” Dr. Gleason said. “We have students who travel between them, we have teachers who travel between them, so one question we tried to answer is how can we make sure to have a stronger overlap between those divisions.”
While working on the process of creating the new schedule, Mr. Kraus and Ms. Tomkiel attended a week-long conference all about scheduling at schools. At this conference, they worked with other teachers from around the country in various activities. For instance, they spent almost an entire day drafting a sample schedule for a certain school with consideration of its specific needs. Following the conclusion of the conference, Mr. Kraus and Ms. Tomkiel reported back to the committee on what they had learned.
Building off what they had learned, the committee was able to start drafting schedules for KO specifically. Some of these schedules were soon scrapped as they did not fit the needs of the community. “We were shown ones with six or seven class periods a day, but they also showed us some with three or four,” Sasha said, regarding her time working with the committee. It was soon realized that making a drastic change to the schedule would not end well for the overall well-being of the students and faculty. As a result, the new schedules proposed from then on were similar to our current schedule, but with additions that would benefit the community.
After months and months of contemplation, the committee finally settled on a schedule and revealed it to faculty members during a faculty meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23. The new schedule combines parts of the existing schedule that work well with aspects that were lacking in the current schedule. “I like how it doesn’t take anything away and I’m hoping that we’re creating a little bit more spacing between class meetings for the Upper School, so we have fewer classes that are back to back,” Mr. Kraus said, regarding the new schedule.
With the new schedule, classes will still start at 8:00 a.m., but classes will get out at 3:15 p.m. instead of 3:00 p.m.. This holds true for every day of the week, unlike the current schedule, which only has a later dismissal on Thursdays. This is to allow for more breathing room between classes. Mr. Kraus said that there will no longer be classes back to back as there is more community time built into the schedule. This community time will hopefully allow clubs to meet more often and students to form stronger relationships with their peers.
Additionally, on Wednesdays, five class periods will be held instead of four, but the day will still be a half-day. On Thursdays, students will still have late starts with classes starting at 9:00 a.m.
Another change is that the schedule will no longer be a 10-day rotating schedule; instead, it will now consist of an eight-day rotation. This is to ensure that not all Mondays, or any specific day of the week, always follow the same schedule as they do currently. Also, this means that students will only have to remember eight specific days, rather than 10.
Regarding the individual periods, the number of classes each week will be adjusted. What classes meet largely depends on the eight-day rotation and which day of the week it restarts. Instead of being identified by a letter, the periods will be named by numbers one through eight. Mr. Kraus hopes that the numbers will make the schedule easier to follow and remember.
Though the Upper School schedule is staying relatively similar to the current schedule, the Middle School schedule is changing drastically. Presently, Middle School students only have six classes and a music block. Each day, three of those classes meet for 75 minutes, and there is time built into the day for music/study hall and sports.
With the new schedule, students in the Middle School will have eight classes with four periods per day. The eighth period will be utilized for community time, where the students could be divided into groups by form or advisee group, for example. This change to the schedule in the Middle School was aimed at better aligning it with the Upper School schedule.
Although change, especially in one’s daily schedule, can be stressful, Mr. Kraus and the other members of the committee are hopeful that the new schedule will benefit the community in the long run. “We’re hoping that after the stress of the change, which is enormous for the school, that people will be either in the same place in terms of how their school day goes or in a better way,” Mr. Kraus said.
Following the reveal of the schedule on Tuesday, March 28, a Google Doc was shared with faculty and students to express concerns and ask questions about the new schedule. Some of the most popular questions included why the Upper School has to align with the Middle School, the need for so many small breaks, and concerns about space in both lunch and the locker room during sports.
These questions were answered in an assembly on Tuesday, March 11. First, interim Dean of Students Kata Baker expressed the need for connection with the Middle School. With an aligned schedule, teachers can easily flow between both divisions. Additionally, the new schedule will allow for more community events and possibly opportunities for teaching assistants in Middle School classes.
Second, the new schedule’s many breaks are supported by research. This undisclosed study showcased that students complete the best work in their classes with plenty of breaks throughout the day.
Lastly, Ms. Baker explained the process of lunch and sports. Lunches will work like a typical Friday lunch, with freshmen and sophomores in one group and juniors and seniors in the other. After a discussion with the athletics department, space in the locker room should not be an issue.
Overall, students have mixed reviews about the schedule. A survey will eventually be seen out to students and faculty to gain a more thorough understanding of students’ opinions and to gather more feedback. Without a pilot program, this schedule will be tested out during the beginning of the new school year. Thus, we have yet to see the success of the new schedule.